Jeremy Tyler's road to the NBA was anything but traditional.
Over a span of two years, he left his high school in San Diego to travel first to Israel, then later to Japan in an effort to cash in on the professional basketball skills he'd been assured that he'd had since his middle school days.
After his two years abroad, Tyler has literally and figuratively come full circle. While has trip was a little longer than 80 days, it did indeed take him around the world to end up not far at all from where he started—some 450 miles up the Pacific Coast, with the Golden State Warriors, .
Prior to his excursion overseas, Tyler had been labeled as the next best thing in the world of basketball. His 6-foot-10 frame and explosive athleticism landed him at or near the top of his draft class from his middle school days. That standing never faltered throughout his high school years.
So while many want to question that fateful decision to pass on the opportunity at a free education—at the hands of coaching legend Rick Pitino at Louisville—and attempt to cash in on those talents he'd heard so much about, the question begs to be asked: How much of that decision really came from the high school junior?
Sonny Vaccaro, a well connected basketball figure who has worked for the three big shoe companies (Nike, Adidas and Reebok) in addition to founding the immensely popular ABCD All-America camp, led the throng of voices telling Tyler to forgo giving his money (in ticket and merchandise sales) to a university's athletic department and keep some of that change for himself.
Tyler's first contract from the Israeli team, Maccabi Haifa, would have netted him $140,000 for two years of service, just long enough to meet the NBA's requirement for entering the draft. That is, of course, had that experiment lasted longer than the 10 games that Tyler, an 18-year-old in a foreign country, played for the team.
So while it's easy to point back at the decision and wonder how many millions it really cost him, it's just as easy to understand why he made the move. After hearing for so long how good he really was, failure was not an option.
Tyler's chance to play in the NBA began when the Charlotte Bobcats selected the big man with the 39th pick of the 2011 NBA draft. He was shortly thereafter sent to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for $2 million.
If his first taste of professional basketball came under the watchful eyes of Vaccaro and his associates, along with a smattering of high school athletes with a similar talent level, imagine how Tyler must feel now.
When or if the NBA season begins, Tyler will be given every opportunity to become the dominant big man that the Warriors and their loyal fanbase have so desperately sought since Chris Webber packed up his things following his rookie season in 1994.
That's right. Seventeen years of searching and still no answers in the middle for a team plagued by unbalance. They have immense talent in the backcourt but a frontcourt that might struggle to earn minutes in the NBDL. They have one of the league's most potent offense with one of the league's most porous defenses.
The Warriors certainly have tried to fill that hole in the middle, and Tyler is far from the first big man to hit the Bay Area with potential. Lottery picks Joe Smith (first overall selection, 1995), Todd Fuller (11th pick, 1996), Adonal Foyle (eighth pick, 1998), Troy Murphy (14th pick, 2001), Ike Diogu (ninth pick, 2005), Patrick O'Bryant (ninth pick, 2006) and Anthony Randolph (sixth pick, 2008) have all patrolled the paint for the Warriors. And each has been subsequently given their walking papers.
Tyler will join fellow lottery picks Andris Biedrins (11th pick in 2004) and Ekpe Udoh (sixth pick in 2010) in the Warriors frontcourt this season, but those players don't create the same excitement in the Bay Area as the young man from SoCal certainly will.
As long and hard as Tyler's journey to the NBA has been, the Warriors' journey to find a player with his skill set has been longer and harder. Second-round picks are far from locks in the NBA, but this is a franchise that has found countless diamonds in the rough over the years.
Tyler's career will only go one of two ways from here: either he'll be the guy that finally leads the Warriors deep in the postseason or he'll be that guy who tried to beat the NBA-NCAA's system and failed miserably.